So, you PCS in the summer between preschool and pre-K (which, it turns out, are totally different), and you decide to homeschool your little genius instead of spending 70 percent of your salary on a part-time preschool. It’s intimidating. It’s exciting. But is it crazy? Here’s our rationale:
- We refused to spend more than our Basic Allowance for Housing to get both kids into preschool, and we just couldn’t play favorites with those sweet little faces.
- We refused to spend our grocery money on 36 hours of “preschool” each month that wasn’t going to challenge our kids or give me enough free time to draft my first to-do list of the day.
- Our kids might not learn a single thing in those 36 hours of preschool each month, but they would, without fail, bring germs and bad habits home to share with the rest of the family.
So, for me, it was pretty much a no-brainer:
- Support husband in his career — please be in touch for my wife of the year award.
- Save oodles of money on preschool.
- Spend less time stressing about deadlines.
- Spend more time enjoying my babies before they grow up and start calling me lame behind my back.
Our new duty station was hitting a daily home run. There was a new adventure every day — my bucket list has never been less dusty. My kids were stepping outside their comfort zones on the daily, and making new friends at every park visit. This was it. This was what thriving after a move looked like.
We had been homeschooling for about a month because the kids were bored at home before summer’s end, which — as any parent knows — is a dangerous emotion for kids. I knew if we didn’t kick off homeschool ahead of schedule those freshly-hung curtains would be ripped from the walls. We had our routine — our park days, aquarium days, school hours, picnic spots and more.
Then school started.
We stopped at the park after our first run of the week (yee-haw — double jogging stroller uphill) for the routine socialization hour. Instead of melding into a flock of loud 4-year-olds, that park was a ghost town. Seriously — I’m almost positive that there was a swing moving by itself and a tumbleweed rolling under the monkey bars.
Like any rock star mom, I kept my cool because everyone knows that kids can smell fear. I took that vacant park as an opportunity to play tag with my own kids, play on the monkey bars (welcome back, 8-year old Kristi) and remind my youngest — my shy little lady — that she is the coolest girl in the whole world.
That was all unicorns and rainbows for a week(ish). I was exhausted, but I was doing it. I was ready to see it through no matter how many hours I had to spend after bedtime to piece together some worthwhile lesson plans. Then, one day, my almost kindergartener had a meltdown. A friend that he’d come to expect seeing at the park didn’t show at the usual time.
After 45 minutes, we left. Or — at least — we tried to. I was loading up an armful of sweatshirts and snack bags, when I turned around to see my 4-year-old’s eyes filling with tears. Like any concerned mom, I dropped to my knees and asked, “What’s wrong, bud?”
“We can’t leave before my friend comes.”
“Why doesn’t my friend want to play with me?”
…sob, sob, snot wipe, sob, sob…
“I miss my Texas friends.”
…sob, sob, ugly cry, sob, sob…
Oh no. I hadn’t cried on a playground since the second grade, and I feared my streak was coming to an end. I’m a strong, stubborn, sarcastic woman, but a real tear in this little boy’s eye was almost more than this mom could bear.
I started exploring options right then and there for ways to mingle him with kids his age. Sure, he was signed up for soccer, and he could always play with his sister (two years his junior) or his parents (26 to 28 years his senior), but he needed something more age-appropriate and something more consistent than a game once a week.
For our family, this translated into part-time preschool (again…even though I swore I wouldn’t). For your family, maybe it’s the same. Or, maybe it’s:
- Library story time
- Coordinated playdates
- Organized sports
- Mother’s morning out
- Child development center
- Classes or lessons — dance, gymnastics, swimming, etc.
- Full-time daycare or preschool
The bottom line is that you do what is best for your kids. Cost, convenience and sanity aside, you make it work. Sometimes your heart breaks. Sometimes your wallet stays empty to keep those little hearts full. Sometimes your best-laid plans fly out the window. Sometimes the last thing you expected to do is exactly what you — as in all of you — need.
So, whether you decide to homeschool for the first time ever or the last time ever; whether your baby is walking through the doors of kindergarten for the first time or you’re involuntarily dropping your middle-schooler off around the block as instructed; whether you enroll your child in preschool to pursue a job that you love or need, or you pause your career to pursue parenthood to the fullest, you’re OK. Your kids are OK. And no matter how hard it seems right now, you aren’t going to remember the long days, you’re going to remember the sweet moments in between rushing to and from the car — in between the stress.